NATO foiled two attacks by the Somali pirates over the weekend, warding off an attack on a Norwegian tanker and rescuing 20 Yemeni fishermen. As I note in “NATO Foils Pirate Attacks,” this is good news, indeed, for the beleaguered Alliance.
There is, however, a comic twist. In both cases, the Canadian and Dutch warships were able to detain the pirates briefly before setting them free. It seems that there are no provisions in their national law for dealing with pirates outside their territorial waters (in which case, technically, they’re not even pirates).
It seems that international law is incredibly murky on the issue of piracy. Like terrorists, pirates exist in a netherworld between combatants and criminals. Sending them to their home country for trial doesn’t work for a variety of reasons and it’s doubtful whether the capturing countries have jurisdiction. And there are always “human rights” charges to worry about.
It’s a truly bizarre situation that needs fixing.
UPDATE: Dave Schuler noted in a post yesterday afternoon that,
This story underscores the thought behind the suggestion that Galrahn of Information Dissemination made on OTB Radio last week. His suggestion was that the United States would agree to underwrite the insurance of American-flagged vessels carrying cargo off the coast of Somalia. This would encourage more vessels to be American-flagged (there are fewer than 250 American-flagged vessels of over 1,000 tons today). Vessels being American-flagged would give the United States a legal underpinning for apprehending and detaining Somali pirates who attacked or harassed such vessels.